Monday, 9 April 2012

Lulu butchered? Berg, Barenboim, Berlin, Breth

Lulu minus Act III/1? Of the 1326 bars in the Third Act, only 87 were not fully notated by Berg, and enough sketched of the remainder to give an indication of his purpose. When I first heard the completion in 1980, I remember being totally perplexed, but that's a measure of just how innovative Berg was. I didn't know beans. But the point is that Berg had pretty firm ideas about what he wanted. The two act version is of historic, not artistic value. So why does the new Berlin Lulu eliminate Act III/1 (Paris)? Read more HERE on parterre box. The "new" Berlin version also cuts the animal tamer's part and adds a spoken text by Kierkegaard. That should set those who hate the third act against those who want to hear what Berg wrote. How much or how little of Berg should we get? Evidently there's a precedent for butchering Lulu, endorsed by his widow, Helene Berg.

Without experiencing the "new" Lulu (cuts by Andrea Breth) it's pointless to judge. For me, though Act III/1 pulls together the private Lulu with the public meta-Lulu and places her story in a wider context. She sells favours, the world operates as prostitution. It's no intermezzo but part of the whole: Berg was obsessed by structure. Leaving out the barrel organ music is vaguely justified, since that was the main passage Berg left incomplete, but evidently he wanted it included. Misguided publicity set millions against the ROH Christof Loy Lulu, but for me it was a penetrating insight into character, deliberately stylized, elusive and challenging. He didn't fool around with the score but used what was there. (More here, here and here) . When it comes to creative expression, hate is a dead end. But I can't get my head round leaving one scene in the third act.

As  I hoped, Mark Berry at Boulezian went to the production. Please read his comments HERE.


Zwölftöner said...

"Leaving out the barrel organ music is vaguely justified, since that was the main passage Berg left incomplete, but evidently he wanted it included."

Well if it's not included half the ingenuity of the variations is lost, and as for leaving such a simple thing incomplete, we know already that Berg's orchestration habit was to start with the difficult stuff first and then work backward.

The only grounds I see for tinkering with Cerha's completion are in III/2, though since this was allowed (2006) I haven't seen anyone come forward who promises to do a better job than Cerha himself (who has told me he wouldn't make another revision).

Gavin Plumley said...

Goodness me... I thought the completion was an accepted part of the work's performance history now. I agree with you about the Loy production, for what it's worth. All the best virtues of a 'black box' approach. His Die Frau ohne Schatten, which I've just viewed on DVD, has those hallmarks too (albeit in more interventionist packaging).

Doundou Tchil said...

I agree with you. But I'm desperate to find any justification for excluding it. It's "street" intruding on "art" music : presages the final acene.

Doundou Tchil said...

The two act version has vehement support in some quarters and is still performed. There are reasons, tho' I don't agree. What people hate about Christof Loy is that his work is too abstract and luminous, but it's because he comes from a background in baroque.